# POLITICS /// Aesthetization of Violence + Capitalization on the Revolt Imaginary. Yet an Interesting Problem to Question

all images are screenshots from Romain Gravas’ fim: Jay Z & Kanye West “No church in the wild” (2012)

The new videoclip of Jay Z and Kanye West, No Church in the Wild, directed by Romain Gavras is problematic to many extents. During 5 very aesthetic minutes of film, a slowmotion of a scene involving a violent fight between an angry mob (composed strictly of men) and a less angry -yet much more methodical in its violence- group of suppressive geared policemen. The scene is recognizably occurring in Prague and Paris, thus offering us a modern version of the various European revolutions and insurrections of the 19th century. The ‘aesthetization’ of violence is optimal in order to directly to address our testosterone which then helps us to identify to this hyper-male insurrectional standard which correspond in nothing to the various 2011 Arab revolutions or civic movements in various countries in the world. The society of spectacle is not interested in long pacific democratic construction and, through its various media (including the most serious and so called ‘liberal’ of them like the perfidious New York Times), prefers to capitalize on the violent side of the revolt imaginary in order to both discredit and co-opt a movement that was originally anti-capitalist. In this regard, it is not innocent that the rioters, in this video, do not seem to seek anything else than a simple fight with the police force (almost like a sport). It is Capitalism’s great strength to be able to include within itself its own antagonism, and furthermore to be able to capitalize on the latter. Jay Z and Kanye West are the perfect example of such phenomena as they represent the nec plus ultra of the anti-pro system components of a hip-hop music that was originally invented as a pure form of resistance against this very same system.

However, this short film is still interesting to look at, as it might touch a line of risk that capitalism is taking against itself. Capitalist’s cinema has been aesthetizing violence for quite a long time now; nevertheless when doing so, it is always careful to subject this violence against a tangible and specific form of otherness, whether the latter is embodied by aliens, enemy armies, gangsters, cops (but always corrupted and individualized in one way or another) or any other instance characterized by its binary mode of existence -it is either alive or dead, victorious or defeated. What a film like No Church in the Wild participates to, is the construction of an imaginary in which an intangible yet ubiquitous system is being fought against. Of course, the society of spectacle is still strongly present and the policemen are contributing to the anthropomorphism of an antagonism; nevertheless, it is clear that something outside of this visible fight is engaged and is therefore developed in our imaginary.

Let’s not forget that the opportunists tell us something interesting about our era as they carry more or less consciously the awareness of capitalism’s mutation at work. The fact that Jay-Z and Kanye West’s videoclips are no longer introducing phalocratic (chauvinist) orgies playboy style, but rather a more grave look (even if it is still chauvinist and still incredibly simplistic) on society is revealing the shift of what started in 2011 on people’s imaginary. Rather than rejecting absolutely the product of such opportunism, we should attempt to study how such good can be used against the very logic of its own production. Using the system against itself is probably the only mean to counter its faculties of mutation and adaptation. Inversely, all is done to convert this current political energy in favor of the very object that it was originally constructed against and it is up to us, on the contrary, to consolidate this same energy into a base for a new criticality within society.

Share This:



This is a very even-handed assessment of the video, and I agree completely. I would however say that there are different aesthetic approaches to violence that have different political valencies. For example, Gavras’s MIA videos seem to be doing something more complicated and interesting than this video. At a very basic level, there is an underlying irony at work in the former that is completely missing from the latter.

Dan Feidt (@HongPong)

Helpful analysis of this piece – Debord would offer a major hat tip


What occurred to me, after viewing both No church in the wild, and M.I.A.’s bad girls is that weather its globalization or the corporate sponsorship of occupy spectacular, the resistance is already re-appropriated by the spectacle before it’s ever even broadcast or capitalized on. It’s like Sartre’s feeling of being watched, and Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame synthesized into one narcissistic, commoditized, little self-enlightened moment. This might be clear to everyone else but it’s still quite troubling to me. Having read a good portion of society of the spectacle I have to say I’m still at a loss to what a proper response would be to these phenomena. Part of me wants to say that both these videos are actually quite empowering depictions of resistance, which just as you have said they “might touch a line of risk that capitalism is taking against itself.” But the other side of me wants to say that the residence to western capitalism here as in Morocco(where the bad girl video was filmed) is ironically making us more receptive to its spectacle, to its control. And maybe just maybe, this is the nature of irony, that the mocked takes possession of the mocker and preforms its own agenda through the spectacle.

In other words, “Hands up, hands tied” we became what we hate when we imitate the spectacle, the spectacle imitates us. I really feel at a loss at how to resist this, when even blatant countering gets re-appropriated. I mean the commodification of the khaki, man!? That’s gnarly! One could easily argue that this is all because of increasing media attention on the Middle East, coverage and afghanistan and Iraq, and such, the extremist commodified, and thats as wild of an example of the spectacle as I could ever imagine. Bush said “If you’re not for us then you’re agents us,” its starting to look like, if you’re agents us then you’re for us. I mean war is good for business, maybe resistance is too.

Say, in what way was 68 capitalized on?


Did anyone wacth president Obama slow jam the news with Jimmy Kimmel last night?

( Spending too much time on this blog now, ha)

Micks reply reminds me of sections of Jean Baudrilliard’s “impossible exchange” somewhat fused with the his book “the illusion of the end”, in that we assume for efficient logical reasons there must always be a counter solution. What Jean points out in one of those books is the counter solution is – nothing, or absence of what one would assume is a counter solution. The “lie” is that we think that a counter solution should or could exist. We assume if there is a beginning there must be an END.

Another section of “illusion of the end” makes a statement that most would find baffling and erroneous but when I read it, it made perfect sense – to paraphrase – if god existed there would be no reason to believe in it or in other words to believe in god is to deny its existence. Belief being a form of human desire for something not existing here and now.

If the human desire is for something that doesn’t exist, an illusion, then its opposite can only be nothing, but nothing can easily be replaced with another illusion that appears to be the counterpoint.

To sort of respond to Mick – because the desire for commodity possesion within the system, war, etc.. is an illusion to begin with – the opposite: resistance to this, is an illusion based on the first illusion, it is part of and not other to the first illusion. There is no exchange in value available (baudriliard point I believe). Another straight forward example is the stock market and GDP growth, there is no counterpoint to the illusion of the importance of growth and hence any chart representing the stock market only goes up if looked at in it totality. There Is a begining to a system, but is there an END?

jivaro rotterdam

is this the perfect way to forget violence?
and contribute to make a imaginary scene in to our heads?
Could be a strategy of this hidden democracy?

I could think:
this society is a trap.
It is industrial era.
and democracy the medicine to sleep the populace,
They are building the non-violence revolution.
Something very dangerous for the world owners
They are building everyday the “DEMOCRACY”

i am very doubtful

Leave a Reply